I’m not sure I clearly remember where I was mentally and physically three weeks after the delivery of my first two kids. Late night feedings, diaper changes and short bursts of sleep made the time pass by in a bit of a blur. We managed to plow through the challenges and celebrate the fun of watching them grow. But a lot of it still remained a blur. Now, seven years after the birth of our first, I’m constantly surprised at how far we’ve come. Bedtime is a breeze, they are truly the best of friends and their awareness of and curiosity about the world around them keeps things entertaining.
Two weeks after delivering twins as a surrogate is a very different experience, for a number of reasons. Obviously, I don’t have round the clock feedings and diaper changes to attend to. The fog this time around is drug-induced after having had a C-section and a few minor complications. As an aside, I have tremendous respect for women who recover from surgery with babies at home. The fog is lifting and every day I’m feeling a little more normal. As I start to get out and about and see familiar faces, the question keeps coming up – “Now what?”
The question means a number of things. First, I think people are curious about the emotional state of mind I’m in after ending the physical part of the surrogacy process. To put it simply, I’m in exactly the emotional place I imagined I would be in when I decided to be a surrogate. I entered the journey knowing that I was not interested in bringing babies home. What’s more, I committed to carrying someone else’s child (children, as it turned out). While I adore the babies and am excited that we can watch them grow, I can honestly say that there was never a moment of hesitation or sadness in watching their parents welcome them into the world and take them home. In fact, watching a mother watch her babies enter the world was by far the most touching element of my experience thus far. This seems very obvious to me, but I know it’s hard for some people to understand so I feel like it’s worth reiterating.
There’s also the logistical side of what happens after delivering as a surrogate. Many people asked along the way whether we would stay in touch with the family after the fact. There is no hard and fast rule about what a relationship looks like between a gestational carrier and the parents, whether during the pregnancy or after. It’s up to those involved to create/define what it looks like. In our case, we have been very fortunate throughout the process. We have worked with a family with whom we share many similarities – in personality, interests, etc. They were very involved in the pregnancy and we were happy to have them at all of the appointments and checking in periodically. Personally, I am grateful that they have always expressed as much concern for my own well-being as that of the babies. It seems like a natural progression of our relationship that we would remain in each other’s lives now that the pregnancy is over. My boys are excited about getting to know their new little buddies, and even more excited that they no longer share my attention and my energy with them.
Then there’s the question of what “maternity leave” looks like for a surrogate. In my case, I consider myself on medical leave. There is recovery that is happening/needs to happen. I’m learning that my mind and my body are recovering at different rates and I’m trying to be aware of that. I’m trying not to pay attention to work emails, easier said than done. I’m making small to-do lists of things that I’d like to tackle around the house. I’m taking my kids to school again and enjoying that I can sit and give them my full attention while they do their homework or read to me. I’m also finding some “me time,” complete with naps, an occasional facial and planning closet and patio makeovers (thank you, HGTV).
After a few more weeks, I will be back to work and the babies will be even happier and healthier. The physical part of the process is (mostly) behind us, but now we are starting a new chapter, where we get to see how our relationship develops, how the new family settles into their new routines and how this experience continues to shape the worldview of all of our kids, and maybe even a few adults along the way.